Beyond The Red By Ava Jae ARC Review | True Definition Of Redemption.


Beyond The Red | Ava Jae
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre(s): Young Adult, Science Fiction
Pages: 360
Edition: EARC
Source: Publisher
Rating:



A story of betrayal, love, and loss—all on a technologically advanced alien planet where monarchy reigns, but lies rule.

Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, amounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being half-blood. But that doesn’t stop him from defending his people—at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He is given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him. When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves into the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or views regarding the book whatsoever.


Bouncing back after 2 DNF's last week, I'm now ready to share my thoughts on today's title, Beyond The Red by Ava Jae. I straddled the fence of feelings for quite a bit on this one, debating if a strong concept, likable characters, a forbidden romance and action-packed scenes were enough to overpower a writing style that was far too simplistic, almost bordering a snore-fest in some areas.

Trust me, you'll want to keep reading


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If you're going to snatch my attention make sure you keep it. In chapter one of Beyond The Red, we start off with such a huge bang. The story kicks off in high gear with an interesting action scene that shifts a bunch of core pieces together, lining them up for what's to come ahead. I really liked this. There aren't too many stories that throw you straight into the fire pit, and if Ava wanted a fast paced novel, then she delivered just that. But then something happened. Towards the middle, that supercharged, alien awesomeness fizzled out, and in its place was a sluggish pace that caused the plot to move in slow motion. I found myself incredibly distracted, and just like with The Wrath of The Dawn, everything but reading was more appealing. Finally after I: A. Put this aside and read about 3 other books and B. Had epic GIF reactions to said books via twitter, I finally hopped back into the story, in hopes that it would eventually pick back up. It did. The true definition of redemption

Aliens make everything cooler. Although I was marching my way through the story moving at 0.00006 WPM, there were a few aspects that kept me thoroughly entertained. For one, I really, really enjoyed the characters and their perspectives. As you all know, I'm usually always sold on a story that includes a male POV and this was no exception. Eros, this half human, half alien warrior-boy was so freaking adorable. After his family is killed by a rival colony led by the alien queen Kora, (our second main character) he is sent to her lands to become a slave along with the other rebels that were captured and taken prisoner from his camp. I absolutely loved his personality. He was every bit of a warrior, clever, determined, strong-willed, but there was also another side to him that was incredibly sweet and compassionate. He made the best of his not-so-ideal situation. Being imprisoned in enemy lands, while still trying to fight for your people? Admirable. Kora, who became one of my favorite female characters, was an awesome mixture of Princess Jasmine and Katniss. Her own people are against her being on the throne as queen, (including her vicious, back-stabbing brother) but she was fierce and passionate about her position, as well as a beautiful person inside and out. Even when she wanted to break, she held her own. #girlpowerbitches 

Forbidden fruit is always the sweetest. I rarely read the synopsis of books these days, but I was still very much aware that eventually Eros and Kora would become a " thing " (we are talking about YA here) it was just a matter of how and when. Since Kora had his family slaughtered along with most members of his camp, I had this notion in the back of my head that it wouldn't happen. Can you believe that I was actually, banking on it to happen?? Their companionship was beyond enjoyable, especially their banter and how naturally awkward they were around each other, so when their situationship finally blossomed into something else entirely, I was pretty damn excited. You can't go wrong with forbidden love, especially one as dangerous and scandalous as theirs. 

Ava Jae's debut novel Beyond The Red surprised me in more ways than one. I thought I was getting a typical story of two rivals, yet Ava served brilliant messages of love, friendship, sexuality, forgiveness, unity, and so much more on a platter that was piping hot. This is definitely one of the few times I'm glad I pushed through a book to the end.  

#thatcliffhangertho 
#wheresthesequelAva?


Suffer Love By Ashley Blake ARC Review | I Suffered . . & Not In A Good Way.


Suffer Love | Ashley Herring Blake
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: HMHKids
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Edition: Paperback ARC
Source: Publisher
Rating: Did Not Finish



“Just let it go.”

That’s what everyone keeps telling Hadley St. Clair after she learns that her father cheated on her mother. But Hadley doesn’t want to let it go. She wants to be angry and she wants everyone in her life—her dad most of all—to leave her alone.

Sam Bennett and his family have had their share of drama too. Still reeling from a move to a new town and his parents’ recent divorce, Sam is hoping that he can coast through senior year and then move on to hassle-free, parent-free life in college. He isn’t looking for a relationship…that is until he sees Hadley for the first time.

Hadley and Sam’s connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret that could ruin everything. Should he follow his heart or tell the truth?


I received a review copy courtesy of the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or views regarding the book whatsoever.


Before reading this, if you would've told me that I:
A. wouldn't like it, and B. that it features a god awful joke that actually turns out to be a jab towards POC, I seriously would've thought you've lost your mind. If you've been a reader of my blog for a while, or just chat with me on twitter, then you know that I am the biggest fan of all things bookishly dysfunctional. When I first discovered that Suffer Love showcases a very screwed up family dynamic with the aspect of cheating, I was so onboard . . until I actually started the book.

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Not even five pages in, my literary ghost strolls in simultaneously nibbling on a cold slice of pizza and sipping orange Fanta as he squealed, " oooooo you hate this don't you? Your face is all screwed up and pinched, sorta how you looked while reading The Wrath & The Dawn but worst! " I couldn't even deny it, he was right. I've never been a fan of overly descriptive writing that's shoved down our throats as beautiful prose, (my friend Ari calls it " dramatics " ) so I was already off to quite a shaky start. Breezing past that, (especially since it didn't happen quite often) I stumbled into an even bigger issue -- an issue that I for one, refuse to put up with.

Here we go again. We haven't even scratched the surface on debuts in 2016, and I already feel like authors are snatching recipes from the next person, switching up ingredients as they go. Upon finishing chapter one, I literally groaned with annoyance after noticing this would be another formula where (daddy issues/family issues + self-esteem issues) x promiscuous = our female main character. So far I've seen this displayed with Mercedes in Firsts, Zephyr in The Girl Who Fell, and Eden in The Way I Used To Be. Although these girls are light years ahead of our MC in the sex department, the common denominator is still there: young girl using intimacy to piece together the shambles that is her life. While I love when my contemporaries feature realistic situations, it's the redundancy of this aspect that gets to me.

 Suffer Love follows Hadley and Sam, two teens that are dealing with some serious shit at home. Hadley's father had an affair with Sam's mother, completely destroying one marriage, while the other is hanging on by mere threads. I actually liked the depiction of this situation . . sort of. I felt it was both realistic and unrealistic all at the same time, mostly because of its execution. While Hadley is in the dark about who her dad's mistress is, Sam knows everything. After being at school for all of 30 mins and learning that Hadley's last name was St.Clair from a guy he talked to for 5 of that 30, he was able to piece together that Hadley was indeed the daughter of the man that fucked up his family. St.Clair is a pretty common last name and you mean to tell me he was able to click this together in all of 2.5 seconds? Okay, Sherlock JR. If someone commits a crime with the last name Willis, hopefully, I won't be held accountable. Guilty by last name association is apparently a thing folks. But even this wasn't the tip of the iceberg.


Physical (p.17) Ebook (5%)
Sam in reference to Ajay, who we believe is Indian.
" If I hadn't known the guy since I was six, I'd probably report him as a terrorist threat. "

This was clearly a joke meant to poke fun at the fact that Ajay loves to put things together, problem is, why did the author think this was okay to say? I used to take apart and put together VCR's when I was younger, does that make me a terrorist too? If I were Middle Eastern, would someone profile me as such? Outside of the community, we are dealing with enough as it is. Satan running for president, (Donald Trump #sorrynotsorry) the terrorist group ISIS, mass bombings in countries outside of the US. It is far too soon to make such a distasteful joke . . actually, such a thing shouldn't even cross your lips, let alone be put on paper for millions of readers, especially young adult readers to see. We've been fighting for diverse reads, even pushing hard to support AOC within the community, so to see authors not using their better judgment, (especially those who always appear to be advocates of diversity) is beyond disheartening. This sentence made it past the beta stage, editor(s), the ARC, down to the finished copy, without anyone speaking up about it, and honestly I'm baffled. Surely out of the hundreds of readers and authors that have read this book, someone had to have seen it right? When it comes to POC, is it so easy to sweep us under the rug? Is this a case of I-wanted-to-say-something-but-I-was-afraid-of-backlash? or even worst, I- didn't-say-anything-because-it-wasn't-directed-towards-me?

I was taught that if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. Sadly in our community, there aren't many ppl willing to rise above. 


While the author has used her twitter platform to apologize, I'm still having a bit of trouble accepting it. It felt like a cop out, a way to cover her ass, however, everyone is human -- everyone makes mistakes. Let's hope this will be an eye-opening experience for us all. 


The Wrath And The Dawn DNF Review | & The Biggest Disappointment Of 2016 Goes To . . .


The Wrath & The Dawn | Renee Ahdieh
Released: May. 12, 2015
Publisher: GPSB for Young Readers
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 395
Source: Amazon
Rating: Did Not Finish



One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or views regarding the book whatsoever.


On this chilly rainy day, I'll be discussing my thoughts on one of the most popular hyped books of 2015, The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. A re-telling of A Thousand And One Nights, I had such high hopes for this coveted novel and was let down tremendously.

If you're a loyal reader of my blog, seeing a DNF review will come as no surprise. I've been pegged as the DNF Queen of the community, most likely due to not only my love of writing negative reviews, but my funny nature of going about them. It's been quite some time since I've actually written one, I've been off in some fairytale land where every book I picked up was pretty damn good, but when the bookish gods come marching into your oasis demanding you to entertain them, you know something sucky is brewing ahead. Here goes their entertainment I guess.

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Not liking a main character can ruin everything for me. It never takes me long to determine whether or not I'm going to like, love, or dislike a book. I usually get a visit from a literary ghost around 10% that tells me " okay, so far so good, OMFG this is fucking amazing right, or yeah this shit is definitely not for you. " When I initially picked up The Wrath & The Dawn, so many of my friends excitedly tweeted me, " OMG you're going to love this! It was one of my favorite reads of last year! SO GOOD! This gave me such an adrenaline rush that by the time I started, I had extremely high expectations to the point I just knew I was going to love it. Well, by 6% that ghost sat beside me with a tray of cheesy nachos and whispered, " The main character has you a bit peeved eh? " Yep peeved wasn't even the word.

The biggest issue that I had with the story, was our main character Shahrzad. After her best friend was killed by Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan, Shazi volunteers as tribute, (hehe as tribute) in hopes to avenge her bestie's death, (as well as all of the other young girls he has murdered) by killing him. The problem? Not only was she irritating as all hell, her character wasn't believable. Yes, characters have to be believable for me to buy what they're saying. When Shazi's perspective first came into play I thought, " damn she's fierce! " As one feisty sista to the next, this made me excited. But as I crawled deeper into the story, her personality started to feel incredibly forced. Smart alec-y and sassy just didn't fit her at all, which gave such an unnatural air to everything she did and said. Often times, especially during her inner thoughts and dialogue, I felt as if she were rehearsing lines for a role in someone's play, trying to fit the mold of what the real " Shazi " was supposed to be. She was selling me this strong, I-don't-take-anyone's-shit vibe, and I damn sure wasn't buying it. Make no mistakes. I swear I will live to see as many sunsets as it takes. And I will kill you. With my own hands. Oh girl pulease, you ain't bout that life   

I'm easily distracted as it is. You know a book has gone to shit when you're supposed to be reading, but in between paragraphs, you're A. Stalking people on twitter B. Liking endless photos on Instagram, especially of books and food. C. Watching Uncharted 4 Gameplay on Youtube. Long sentence short, I was doing any and everything besides reading. When I was dreadfully reading again, I couldn't find anything that interested me enough to keep pushing to the end. I felt incredibly disconnected from the characters. Y'all know I couldn't stand Ms.DoingTheMost, Tariq could've died from thirst in the desert, (I liked Rahim though) and Khalid was just okay. The multiple POV's from each person didn't bother me and were surprisingly seamless despite the fact that they began without notice, but I believe it was the switching of perspectives that took away my chance to become not only fully invested in the characters but with the story itself. Ah and the romance? I wasn't sold on this either. Shazi and Khalid didn't spend a great deal of time together, so when their feelings for each other blossomed, I rolled my eyes and took a 3 hour haitus from the book. No one has time for insta-love. Their dialogue was either Shazi trying too hard to be a boss bitch, or Khalid speaking to her as if he's never seen a girl in his entire life. Oh cliche YA, I adore you. 

I tried so hard to like this book, I really did. Unfortunately, it just wasn't for me. The writing was pretty damn good, but I ended up being incredibly irked that there was virtually NO WORLD BUILDING. While the author could describe the hell out of a feast, sand, or a damn pillow, everything else was non-existent. Getting through the book felt as if I were sludging my way through cement. I was getting nowhere fast, and when I guessed the big " reveal " around 30 something percent, I just knew it was my time to thrown in the towel and call it a day. 

Best book of 2015 my ass. Yall owe me big time you scoundrels * shakes fist *

Water's Wrath ARC " Inter-Review " | Team Work Makes The Dream Work.


Water's Wrath (Air Awakens #4) | Elise Kova
Release Date: April. 26, 2016 | Silver Wing Press
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 378
Edition: Paperback ARC
Source: Author
Rating:


Librarian turned sorcerer. Sorcerer turned hero. Hero turned puppet.
The Solaris Empire found victory in the North and, at the cost of her heart and her innocence, Vhalla Yarl has earned her freedom. But the true fight is only beginning as the secret forces that have been lurking in the shadows, tugging at the strings of Vhalla's fate, finally come to light. Nowhere is safe, and Vhalla must tread carefully or else she'll fall into the waiting arms of her greatest foe. Or former lover.


I received a review copy courtesy of the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or views regarding the book whatsoever.



Today I'm discussing my adoration for the 4th book in the Air Awakens Series, Water's Wrath. A strong novel that covers love, betrayal, independence, redemption, and so much more, Elise shows readers why she's still a force to be reckoned with in the fantasy genre.


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Series Continuance Syndrome
noun? idk. eye-maid-dis-up 
The act of having difficulty continuing a series due to being placed in the same world, with the same characters. SCS has the side effect of repetitiveness which causes dizziness and nausea. 

Yes, people, I suffer from Series Continuance Syndrome. I have such a hard time finishing anything that isn't a standalone, dualology, or a trilogy, and even when I do push past book #3, it's like my brain shuts down and I'm forced to stop. I find that things get repetitive for me. I get tired of being forced to wander within the same world -- tired of reading perspectives of characters I'm bored of, it's just difficult for me to finish an entire series unless I'm blown away. Then came the Air Awakens series. My experience hasn't been without flaw, I definitely stumbled in Earth's End, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the miracle Elise has worked on me. I am now impatiently waiting to devour the final installment Crystal Crowned, which will be my first time completing a series in years . . shocking I know. So instead of doing a traditional review, I decided to team up with my new friend Skylar to generate a discussion by answering a few questions centered around the story, while sharing our thoughts on Water's Wrath! 


After reading the first three books in the Air Awakens series, what were your initial thoughts going in to WW?


Skylar With EE ending so abruptly I was outraged. WHERE THE HELL IS MY PRECIOUS BABY VHALLA GOING. I needed WW so that I could atleast feel secure about her. Even though Aldrik is of course suffering..... he's that character that is constantly going to suffer and so with Baldair's help, I knew he was going to be ok. Though Vhalla is still just a newb. She's still learning how to use her power! How she said fuck it and ran from Aldrik, the emperor, the government, "the man"; I was immensely inspired but also worried. So I knew shit was gonna go down in WW but I needed as fast as possible.

Tika I'm not even going to lie, I was nervous as hell! Air Awakens was an amazing start to kick off the series, and Fire Falling being my favorite, completely jump-started my obsession with the story, but when I finally dived into Earth's End, I struggled . . alot. Vhalla and Aldrik's relationship became a bit over-bearing for me, (blame SCS lol) and trying to sludge my way around their relationship, hindered my experience tremendously. Don't get me wrong, I still very much enjoyed the story, but after feeling let down, I was quite unsure about how I would feel once I moved on to the 4th installment. Similar to what Sky mentioned, Earth's End closed out with such a bang, I completely felt like curiosity the cat! There was no way I couldn't continue after that cliffhanger, and honestly, I couldn't get enough of the world and characters anyway.

Once you reached the midway point of the story, what were your thoughts on the first half?

Tika  I think for me, the first half really made me sit back and think, " damn this is why I fell in love with this series to begin with. " As I stated in the previous question, Vhalla and Aldrik's relationship sorta clouded my vision. The plot felt very centered around their romance, which affected my experience, so to see Vhalla regaining her independence, taking time to herself, and really putting her best interest first, fucking impressed me. (Love is blind, and it'll take over your mindddd . . Sorry had a moment) It was refreshing to see her learning to survive on her own, and by the time she reunited with the supporting cast, I felt she was almost renewed. She still made mistakes, as she should, which excitedly resulted in a few unexpected plot twists that pushed the story into high gear. To say I was #stressed going into the second half is an understatement lol.

Skylar The first half was....interesting.... to my surprise, Vhalla is doing remarkably well on her own. Well, I knew she could survive on her own for maybe a week or two without help but it seems she survived on her own for a while. The independence, leadership, and survival skills she gained were truly needed. She is certainly not the small, quiet librarian we were introduced in the first book. The tempo was a little sporadic for my taste. Some interesting things were happening too fast and unnecessary parts too slow. Though I think Kova did that to give the characters more flavor. Either way, readers will be proud of Vhalla's character development.

What do you like the most about Water's Wrath?

Tika  This is going to sound so funny, but my favorite thing about WW is Elise. If it wasn't for her awesome brain, we wouldn't have this series. We wouldn't have a heroine that isn't trying so hard to be the next Celaena, we wouldn't have a fiery, swoon-worthy love interest, we definitely wouldn't have a whole crew of characters that you feel so dear to you know? But to answer the question, (ya'll know I love being difficult) I think my top two favorite things other than Adrik #daddyfireking, is the character development and magic system. If you've been following the series, then you've witnessed the amazing development of all of the characters. Elise definitely wanted her novels to be character driven, and I really love how she didn't just focus on just Vhalla and Aldrik. Everyone in a way has their own story that seamlessly ties into the main plot. My other fave, the magic system, reminds me of a modernized version of Captain Planet. It's beyond nostalgic, and it gives the story an intriguing flare, especially with each element being created to be the foundation of each book. I just adore it to pieces.

Skylar  I know I already talked about this in my last response but I love the independence Vhalla gained. The way she basically said FUCK THIS SHIT and left and did her own thing.... groundbreaking. Also, how everyone respects her independence is also great. No one is treating her like a little girl, incapable of doing pretty much everything. If you read EE you know that shit was getting real annoying. She has blossomed into her own person finally and everyone is totally ok with that. If not makes her more threatening, which is shit I LIVE FOR. Love character development. It also increased her attractiveness to the golden knights, Baldair, Aldrick, even a few other characters I will not name.

Of course, since we covered likes, what are your dislikes? 

Skylar As much as I do love this series, I wasn't happy with this book. I love the excitement and enthusiasm Kova has in her writing but the tempo really threw me off. Some things just felt unnecessary (Baldair, but I'm not spilling any tea) and rushed. I was rereading all the good parts because I felt like it wasn't explained thoroughly. In the beginning, things were slow but got uncontrollably fast in the middle and end. Though I'm still interested in what Crystal Crowned has to bring!

Tika I thankfully don't have many dislikes, but I do feel as though the ending was a bit rushed, or atleast it felt that way for me. Elise does a great job of both telling and showing us great detail within her stories, allowing us to visually imagine what she has created, however, the ending was more so " this happened, then that happened " and it all went down rather quickly. The pacing of the overall story definitely was satisfying, especially because it sent us on an emotional rollercoaster of feels, buttttt I do wish the ending dragged out a bit . . . or maybe that was me not wanting the story to be over yet

And finally, to people who haven't read this book/series, what would encourage them to do so?

Tika You mean other than me standing over them with a knife while they're sleeping? Just kidding. Okay maybe not, but this entire series is definitely for readers that are looking for something more in fantasy. As we all know and have experienced, this genre has a way of getting repetitive. (Well, all genres do actually, but still.) There are so many re-tellings and concepts being heavily inspired or molded after each other, so diving into this series and seeing that it steered clear of that, made me want to hold on for dear life. Elise has created such a creative storyline set in an intriguing world, with imaginative writing, and characters that are not only multi-dimensional but extremely well-crafted. As a whole, the series showcases a slow-burning romance, strong friendships, great-and-not-so-great family dynamics, action, a useful magic-system, (yes I said useful, and yes I'm being shady ) amazing character development . . just everything we could ever want. If I had to give a one sentence pitch to encourage readers to pick this up: Read This Shit Now Before I Attack You would suffice. 

Skylar I feel like this series is for people who are desperate for change because Vhalla hated change. She was perfectly content with being a librarian but she blossomed fast and furious. People want change, people crave for it but have no means to change (Aldrick). Some people are scared of change but it's unavoidable(Vhalla). Of course, you're not going to get powers overnight or suddenly "awakened" but there will be an instance where life can be twisted, beaten, turn upside down and around, that's what its all about.

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Are any of you fans of this series? If so, how did you feel about Water' Wrath? I'm sure we're all counting down the days till Crystal Crowned!

The Way Back To You | Top 10 Places To Visit On An Epic Road Trip.


The Way Back To You | Michelle Andreani & Mindi Scott
Release Date: May. 3rd, 2016 | Katherine Tegen Books
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Irish Banana Blog Tours
Edition: Paperback ARC



In this witty, heart-tugging novel, two teens take a spontaneous road trip across the Southwest to meet three strangers who received the life-saving organs of their late best friend—charting a journey of loss, hope, and love along the way. Six months ago, Ashlyn Montiel died in a bike accident. Her best friend Cloudy is keeping it together, at least on the outside. Cloudy’s insides are a different story: tangled, confused, heartbroken. Kyle is falling apart, and everyone can tell. Ashlyn was his girlfriend, and when she died, a part of him went with her. Maybe the only part he cares about anymore. As the two people who loved Ashlyn best, Cloudy and Kyle should be able to lean on each other. But after a terrible mistake last year, they're barely speaking. So when Cloudy discovers that Ashlyn’s organs were donated after her death and the Montiel family has been in touch with three of the recipients, she does something a little bit crazy and a lot of out character: she steals the letters and convinces Kyle to go on a winter break road trip with her, from Oregon to California to Arizona to Nevada. Maybe if they see the recipients—the people whose lives were saved by Ashlyn’s death—the world will open up again. Or maybe it will be a huge mistake. With hundreds of miles in front of them, a stowaway kitten, and a list of people who are alive because of Ashlyn, Cloudy and Kyle just may find their way to back to her...and to each other.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or views regarding the book whatsoever.

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Summery Contemp + Road Trip =  
come on, you know you want to read it. & after this post, I'm sure you will.

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My favorite books to read when the spring and summer season break are contemporaries! Nothing is better than immersing yourself in a good read while the weather is breezy or warm, and when the story includes a road trip, things just get 1000x better! When I read the synopsis to The Way Back To You, all I seen was " winter-break road trip " and I jumped on it like Dairy Queen was giving out free bacon cheeseburgers, it was an opportunity I just couldn't miss out on. So, when it came time to decide what I wanted to showcase as a promo post, I just knew getting Michelle and Mindi to share a list of the top ten places to visit on an epic road trip, was the perfect idea. Hopefully they'll stuff me in the back seat because I must be in attendance for this greatness.

Michelle and Mindi's Epic (Fictional Fantasy) Road Trip!

Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia): Sure, it's more accessible by wardrobe than motor vehicle, but it seems like an enchanting place to kick off a road trip, right? And maybe Turkish Delight actually tastes good there!

Hogsmeade (The Harry Potter series): Shopping for wizard stuff in the cutest, most magical little town in England. What more can you ask for? (Butterbeer is what, and we'd be stopping by the Three Broomsticks for that frequently!)

Stars Hollow, CT (Gilmore Girls): Luke's, Miss Patty's, Le Chat Club, Al's Pancake World, the gazebo! We might never leave!

Tree Hill, NC (One Tree Hill): We just have a soft spot for this weird little show, so a quick stop to the playground basketball court would be a must.

Colby, NC: The fictional beach town in Sarah Dessen's novels would be picturesque, perfectly restful, and the onion rings sound amazing. Also, we're not saying we'd look around for a certain guy riding a bike . . . but we'd look around for a certain guy riding a bike.

Shermer, IL ((The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Home Alone, lots of others): It's maybe not the liveliest stop on a road trip, but considering all the iconic moments this town has produced, we figure it's worth the time. Also, we'd totally reenact John Bender's fist pump on the high school football field, COME ON.

Dillon, TX (Friday Night Lights): We've heard the football team is pretty good. ;-) Plus we wouldn't mind grabbing some coffee with the coach's wife.

Roswell, NM (Roswell): This one's kind of a cheat because Roswell does actually exist! But we're both such fans of the show; why not grab some Tabasco and do some sky-watching there?

Neptune, CA (Veronica Mars): So, Neptune might have its fair share of issues, but if it's good enough to keep Veronica Mars around, we definitely want to check it out.

Sunnydale, CA (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): Well, Sunnydale might not technically exist anymore (Hellmouth collapsing in on itself and all that) but we'd like our final stop to be spent paying tribute to our faves, the Scooby Gang. *tosses symbolic stake into the rubble*

I was sold after Sunnydale, I mean helloooooo, I don't call myself Buffy The Review Slayer for nothing!
If this post has you even more excited to pick up The Way Back To You, then you're in for a real treat! Today on the blog we're giving away not one, not two, but three hardcovers of this new release! Go on, enter away  


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Holding Smoke ARC Review -- An Out Of Body Experience . . . Literally.


Holding Smoke | Elle Cosimano
Release Date: May 3rd | Disney Hyperion
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, (Paranormal?)
Pages: 336
Edition: Paperback ARC
Source: Irish Banana Blog Tours
Rating:



John "Smoke" Conlan is serving time for two murders but he wasn't the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke's new home and the only one he believes he deserves.

But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near-death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they're asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn't care that the "threads" that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.

Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink's help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he's willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.


I received a review copy courtesy of the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or views regarding the book whatsoever.

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REVIEW

Why Can't I Have A Cool Ability Like YA Characters?
I want to be able to go invisible so I can snatch food without paying. Hey don't judge, steak gets expensive. 

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When I first read the synopsis to Holding Smoke, I had an entirely different idea of what the book would actually be about. The blurb isn't vague by far, but somewhere down the line my mind mixed things up, and by the time I finally started reading, I was so caught off guard and pleasantly surprised, that I had no clue what to do with myself. This book ended up being sorta addictive, entertaining in a way that I obviously wasn't expecting.

It's All About Perspective. 
I remember mentioning this before, but I absolutely love reading books from the male perspective! I've never been able to fully put my finger on it, but it's refreshing, almost an entirely different experience when you can witness life through the eyes of the opposite sex. Most books in YA are told from the female POV, which if we're being honest, can get a little boring. Boys are exciting, and it's not because they have penises . . .

Okay partially because they have penises.

John, better known as Smoke was one heck of an interesting character. He was accused of not one but two murders, landing him in a Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, (in other words, his ass was in jail) but it wasn't his alleged " dangerous " background that intrigued me, it was the aspect that took this story from a normal contemporary, to more of a " paranormal-ish "type novel . . . his ability.

Out Of Body, Out Of Mind. 
Can you imagine having the ability to slip outside of your body? To leave your human form, and wander around the world as some sort of spirit? That would be the best and weirdest shit ever, but it made this story so much more intriguing. Like how most juvenile centers operate, Smoke used his ability to retrieve information from the outside world for his juvie mates, in return for various things. He called them jobs and at night he'll leave his body after lights out, completing favors for others such as, checking on a cellmate's mother, or finding out if a prison guard's girlfriend is cheating on him. They started out pretty innocent, but then his own life comes into the mix, and soon we're unraveling the mystery behind the murders he's being accused of committing.

Do I Really Know You?
I really enjoyed Smoke as a character. He was a super chill guy, with enough a snarky personality to keep me from getting bored of him. He was also clever, and I especially while he didn't want to take up for certain people within the jail, he did it anyway. He was a pretty stand up guy but unfortunately, it ends there. I didn't feel as though he was developed enough, and as I'm thinking about it, none of the characters were. Pink the " interest " was also a character I liked to read about, but she didn't make enough of an impact to be remembered. If it wasn't for the fact that her name was " Pink ", I'm sure she would've been forgotten from the start.

This novel shows a strong case of how a concept can literally carry a book. I'm not sure if I would've completely loved this if it wasn't for Smoke's cool ability. I was pleased with the nice flow of the writing, and even though the characters were a bit flat for me, they managed to do their job which was to keep me as a reader, entertained. If you're looking for something that's light to read in between other books, I'd definitely give Holding Smoke a go!

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The Way I Used To Be & Dreamers Often Lie -- Contemporary Mash-Up #1


I received a review copy courtesy of the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or views regarding the book whatsoever.

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MINI

Tough Topics & Shakespearean Hallucinations?
One book made me want to pull my hair out, the other had me questioning my sanity. 
YA wants to kill me I'm convinced.

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If you guys remember my last post, " Tika's Epic Guide To Navigating New Adult & Adult Like A Boss Bitch, " I decided to challenge myself by doing some mini reviews. The idea was initially inspired by my need to knock out some posts that were piling up, as well as the awesome Shannon from It Starts At Midnight who is QUEEN at whipping up mini reviews in a " minute ". (Thanks for the motivation Shan!) My reviews from that post weren't completely how I wanted them to be, especially since I'm used to discussing a book in its entirety, so I've decided to switch up my format allowing me to elaborate on more content while still giving you guys shorter, bite-sized reviews. Let's see if I nailed it this time!

You guys do know my mini reviews aren't ever mini right? haha

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Back At It Again Not Liking Main Characters.
When looking for titles that showcase important messages and or topics, YA is definitely the arena to search. Every corner, nook, and cranny, is stuffed with stories that reflect real-life situations, making it my go-to genre when I want something to give me a dose of reality. The Way I Used To Be is the third book I've read that sheds some much needed light on abuse both sexually and mentally, BUT, it's also the third book that I found difficult to get through. Let's call this the second case of an important message told in the perspective of a I-really-don't-like-you main character. (The Girl Who Fell was the first. See ranty review if you missed it.)


This book had the potential to be a complete knockout, especially because it showcases the very serious topic of rape. This horrible situation unfolds through the perspective of our main character Eden, who at the time of her assault, was just a 14-year-old freshman in high school. From the beginning, we're peering through the glass of this young girl's world as she tries to piece together the " why's " of her attack while still remaining " normal " as she navigates through life. I should've been glued to my seat, on edge from emotions, because this is horrible right? Unfortunately, I wasn't. The story is told in stages, freshman year, sophomore, junior, and senior, and by the time Eden was in her 2nd year of HS (sophomore) I was pretty much done with her. She became rebellious, lashing out at her parents and others for petty reasons, (she lost her shit when she couldn't get a pair of new glasses) even reckless, having a sexual relationship with 18 year old Joshua (I loved him sadly) who wasn't aware she was 14, (yes, statutory rape folks) and just . . . being so damn hard to deal with. I get that people handle situations differently. Not everyone is going to pull out of that situation, shoulders pulled back, chin held high, but witnessing her fall through a downward spiral for 98.9% of the book was freaking exhausting.

It would've been nice to get a healing process somewhere in the story, instead, it became: sex, sex, sex, drugs, drugs, drugs, alcohol and more alcohol, rebellion, rebellion, rebellion. It was just a bit much. Again, a very important message just told in an I-want-pull-my-hair-out sort of way. If you can get through a frustrating read with a difficult to like the main character, I'd say go for it.


The Biggest Mind F*CK of 2016
If you've read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and seen (and loved) the movie The Black Swan for the hallucinations, you are certainly going to enjoy Dreamers Often Lie. This is my first time enjoying anything dealing with Shakespeare, (look school makes everything sucky okay) but the way the author executed this story giving me the trippiest experience I've ever witnessed in YA . . . I don't even know yall, that's how cray this book is.


Jaye, our theater queen, is the " star " of this story. She's landed the lead role in her school's production of A Midsummer's Night Dream, but a life-threatening accident while on a family ski trip puts everything in jeopardy, including her sanity. GUYS, when I say this book was WOW, I mean it. I enjoyed the characters, especially her mother and sister, but my favorite aspect of Dreamers were the hallucinations. I was fully aware that this book was a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet as well as Hamlet, however, I wasn't expecting characters from these famous plays to make reoccurring appearances throughout the novel, including thee Shakespeare himself. Oh, how freaking exciting this was! You never knew when the hallucinations would begin -- they blended into the writing, causing you to question what was reality and fiction -- to question if Jaye was indeed reliable or just crazy as hell.

All of Shakespeare's characters talked in that classical way, (don't know what to call it haha) causing everything to feel like one big riddle. They popped up at odd times, which didn't bother me. In fact, I began to look for them, to hope they would mysteriously turn up in the next scene. Ophelia and Hamlet were certainly my favorites. I loved how she would appear out of nowhere soaking wet, dripping with leaves and dirt stuck in her hair, almost as if she climbed straight out of the brook she drowned in. And Hamlet, with his icy blue eyes, and that damn skull he walked around with, talking in circles before he would vanish into thin air. They even kissed in the back of a BMW! You can't get any more epic than that! All I'm saying is if the author wanted to crank up the creep factor she definitely succeeded. Dreamers Often Lie is one big mystery that even weeks after finishing, I'm still trying to solve it. The ending threw me for a loop, so please fans of Shakespeare, read this book and decipher the conclusion for me. Thanks in advance  

If you guys have read, or plan on reading either of these titles, definitely let me know. I would love to see if anyone else struggled with The Way I Used To Be, and to see if there are any lovers of Dreamers Often Lie!

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Down With The Shine Blog Tour -- Moonshine Infused Recipes



Down With The Shine | Kate Karyus Quinn
Release Date: April 26th, 2016 | HarperTeen
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 335
Edtion: Paperback ARC
Source: Irish Banana Blog Tours



Make a wish…

Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.

At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.

The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…


I received a review copy courtesy of the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or views regarding the book whatsoever.

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PROMO

Think Moonshine Is Just Used To Get Turnt Up?
Think again folks! 
Don't want to show innocent bystanders your nips after downing a couple of shots of Moonshine? Well, try these instead!

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First of all, I love me some moonshine! I used to work with a guy who's dad and grandpa, MADE moonshine from scratch! They would sell us all types of flavors, my favorites being apple pie and pink lemonade, and when his grandpa brought me a moonshine infused pound cake to work one day, I was pretty much floored. Who would've guessed that this strong alcoholic beverage that tastes like finger nail polish remover, could make something so moist and delicious? Well, I have a few recipes to showcase that infuses moonshine in the most scrumptious way ever.

It's summertime, so you know people are firing up those grills, getting ready for those burnt ass hot dogs, juicy burgers, and even those rack of ribs! Both recipes were adapted from my favorite place Food Network!

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Grilled Buffalo Ribs With Pineapple-Moonshine BBQ Sauce

1 cup diced yellow onion 
1 tablespoon chopped garlic 
1 tablespoon chopped horseradish 
1/2 cup Moonshine (100-proof Vodka can be used as well) 
4 cups diced pineapple 
4 cups diced tomatoes 
1/4 cup molasses 
1/2 cup cider vinegar 
1/4 cup honey 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1 tablespoon dried mustard powder 
2 tablespoons dried oregano 
3 bay leaves 
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce 
4 cups ketchup 
8 Buffalo ribs, about 3 pounds 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Olive oil 
1 cup water 
Grilled pineapple, for garnish 
Lime slices, for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grill to medium-high.
In a large saucepan, saute the onion, garlic, and horseradish over medium-high heat. Add the vodka and scrape the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon or rubber spatula to deglaze the yummy bits off the bottom.

Add the pineapple and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add the molasses, vinegar, honey, sugar, mustard powder, oregano, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup.

Allow it to simmer for 2 hours.

Season the ribs with salt and freshly ground black pepper and rub with a little olive oil. Grill the ribs for about 5 minutes per side. In a braising pan, place the ribs and 1/2 of the sauce over the ribs and cover the pan with a lid. Save the other 1/2 of the sauce for the final plating. Add 1 cup of water to the ribs and let it simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until the meat is tender but is still on the bone. Remove the ribs from the liquid.


Apple Pie Moonshine Cupcakes
I am trying this recipe out ASAP OMG WHAT. WHAT

Cake

3c flour 
1c sugar 
1/2c light brown sugar 
2 tsp baking powder 
½ tsp baking soda 
1 tsp salt 
2 tsp cinnamon 
3 eggs 
1c canola oil 
1/2c light sour cream 
2 tsp vanilla 
2c grated apples 
3/4c apple pie moonshine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 Combine flour, both sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, sour cream and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients and combine. Add grated apples. Add moonshine. Line cupcake tins with liners and fill ¾ of the way with batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until done. Let cupcakes cool before coring and frosting.
Filling

4 apples
1/4c flour
1c powdered sugar
4 tbs moonshine
1/4c sugar
3tsp cinnamon
½ stick butter


Cut apples into small pieces and set aside. Combine moonshine, flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a microwave-safe bowl. Cube the butter and add it to the bowl. Add the apple pieces to the bowl and mix. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for five minutes. Stir. Put back in microwave for five more minutes. Stir and cool in fridge, checking and stirring occasionally. Once both cupcakes and filling are cool, core the cupcakes using a small spoon and fill.

Frosting
2 ½ sticks butter 
3 egg whites 
¾ light brown sugar 
1 tsp vanilla 
cinnamon
3-4 cup powdered sugar 
1/2 cup moonshine

Combine egg whites and brown sugar. Put in microwave for 15 seconds and stir so sugar is dissolved. Use stand or hand mixer on low to medium speeds and whisk for around 10 minutes or until fluffy. Add butter gradually while continuing to mix. Alternate mixing powdered sugar and moonshine until combined. Add vanilla extract and cinnamon to taste. Frost cupcakes. Optional: sprinkle cinnamon on top or garnish with apple.
This not only has me hungry, but I'm now wanting a nice cold Jar of Moonshine. Let me send a telegram to Grandpa Forrest since he doesn't know how to use a cellphone